Taste is a process of paring down.
For the past twenty plus years, I have worked in and around coffee shops. I have held every position from barista to manager to espresso-machine technician. In all of that time, I have tried nearly every kind of coffee-drink combination a person can imagine. I tried different syrup, milk, and coffee combinations. For a while, it was fun. Eventually, however, the novelty wore off. I got bored and none of the ‘fancy’ drinks I made for myself really tasted good anymore.
At this point, I decided to get back to basics and I began drinking plain espresso and brewed coffee. Strangely, once I limited my options in this way, I found that I was much more content and could actually begin exploring and enjoying the depth and variety of the actual coffee. I realized that I preferred simplicity and quality over variety and quantity. I just liked coffee. Even more specifically, I discovered exactly which coffee I enjoyed most and which I could do without.
As I reduced my options, my palate developed and my personal tastes began to reveal themselves. Coffee from every coffee-growing region all has a unique flavor profile. Whether it is from Latin America, Africa, Asia, or the Middle East, a coffee’s flavor, mouthfeel, and body are defined by how and where it is grown, how it is dried and roasted, and how it is brewed. None of this mattered when I drank a 20oz caramel soy-latte, but by choosing to not drink that (also delicious) drink or others like it, I discovered that it matters to me.
“As in budo, so in life. As in life, so in budo.”
-Robert Van Valkenburgh is co-founder of Taikyoku Mind & Body and Kogen Dojo where he teaches Taikyoku Budo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu